Blockchain-based voting could be detrimental than helpful; MIT Report

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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As the US election continues to be in the limelight with allegations of voter fraud and tampering being raised by a certain section of political individuals, a group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has spoken against the use of blockchain in the election process. 

A recent report published by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory suggests that the use of Internet-based and blockchain-based voting systems might not actually result in higher integrity of the process and could attract additional threats to the system.

The research team consisting of Michael Specter, Neha Narula, Sunoo Park, and Ronald L. Rivest summarized that the use of block-chain often considered as a fool-proof and uncompromisable technology may not be “unsuitable for political elections for the foreseeable future” when compared to solutions such as voting in person and mail-in ballots which are not dependent on any technology, leading to lesser chances of adulteration.

Blockchain, a proponent of traceability could be detrimental to one of the main pillars of general elections, ballot secrecy.

Prof Rivest, the senior author of the report stated that “While current election systems are far from perfect, blockchain would greatly increase the risk of undetectable, nation-scale election failures. Any turnout increase would come at the cost of losing meaningful assurance that votes have been counted as they were cast.”

The researcher further added that “I haven’t yet seen a blockchain system that I would trust with a county-fair jellybean count, much less a presidential election.”

The research team argues that unlike financial systems, where blockchain technology is widely used for traceability, elections do not carry any insurance against any wrongdoing. While a financial institution can often offer a refund to the customer in case of an error or a system-wide compromise, elections are another ball game altogether.

“For elections, there can be no insurance or recourse against a failure of democracy. There is no means to make voters whole again after a compromised election.”

The report also observes that the higher turnout which could be achieved due to the introduction of blockchain-based voting will also attract hackers as the medium totally dependent on technology becomes the primary source of voting.